While Thanksgiving can be a great source of joy and fellowship with your family and friends, things can easily get tense if the wrong questions are asked while everyone is gobbling down their Turkey. From queries about children to food shaming here are 10 things not to say at the Thanksgiving table this year if you want to keep the peace. (In fact, we offer four questions to ask instead to keep the convos going.)
10 Things *Not* to Say at the Thanksgiving Table This Year (& 4 Things to Say Instead)
10 Questions You Shouldn't Ask
1. “So, when are you getting married?”
This one is a classic Turkey Day faux pas. Whether it’s directed at someone who has been single for a while or a couple that’s been dating for some years, it’s just bad manners to ask because they simply may not be ready for such a huge step.
2. “When are you having kids?”
The cringier sibling to “When are you getting married?” This question is so loaded that there’s essentially a genre of essays about the topic. There are plenty of reasons why someone wouldn’t have a child—from infertility to finances—so don’t make them uncomfortable by bringing it up in a room full of people.
3. “Is everyone here vaccinated?”
If you’re asking this at the Thanksgiving table, you’re a little too late. If you’re concerned about everyone’s vaccination status, your best bet is to ask before you go to someone’s house or have people over. And while we’re here, let’s also skip bringing up any vaccine conspiracy theories.
4. “Oh, you really gained/lost some weight over the pandemic.”
Let’s just refrain from commenting on people’s appearance altogether, even if you mean it as a compliment. You never know what type of body issues a person may be dealing with behind closed doors—even if they look “conventionally” healthy. Plus, the pandemic has been a period of high stress and anxiety for everyone, so a spike or dip in weight could be a side effect. Unless the person brings it up themselves and is clearly open to everyone else’s input, just leave it alone.
5. “Wow, you really filled up your plate, huh?”
First of all, it’s Thanksgiving. The whole point of the holiday is to fill up that plate! Let’s not spoil the spirit of the holiday by food shaming anyone. The only time you should be worried about what’s on someone else’s plate is if they have a side you didn’t see while you were making your own plate. Additionally, avoid commenting if you see someone has small portions on their plate. It could be that they have an eating disorder and highlighting their small portions can be embarrassing.
6. “Your baby isn’t [insert developmental milestone] yet?”
As if being a new parent isn’t pressure enough, avoid worrying loved ones by suggesting their child should already be walking, talking and running at whatever age you think it should be happening. Instead, focus on something positive, like their cute hat or adorable smile. Spoiler alert: Babies develop at different rates, and odds are, they reach certain milestone on their own pace. Pay attention to those cute cheeks instead.
7. “Can’t believe you’re allowing babysitters into your house again.”
Speaking of children, not everyone is still able to work from home, so if your cousin reveals she’s now back to hiring babysitters to look after her tots, don’t judge. Consider offering a helping hand if you live close enough instead.
8. “What hobbies did you pick up during the pandemic?”
Maybe you learned to knit over the pandemic, and you even managed to create a thriving Etsy shop. That’s great for you, but don’t assume everyone handled lockdown as well as you did. It’s an accomplishment in and of itself just to have made it through with your sanity intact; you don’t need to have also learned a new language, written a book or built a she shed.
9. “What do you think about that [insert nuanced subject for debate]?”
In mixed company, certain topics can be a minefield, and a big family gathering might not be the best setting to convince Uncle Jake that R. Kelly’s music is problematic. Should you talk to him another time about your feelings? Totally! But considering how long it took you to double-sieve those mashed potatoes, the Thanksgiving table is not the ideal place to have a nuanced debate that could make you lose your appetite.
10. “My mashed potatoes are definitely not as good as Aunt Sally’s.”
Speaking of mashed potatoes…we get that being the host can be intimidating, but don’t self-deprecate and downplay all your hard work before people even begin eating. Odds are, they weren’t even comparing your mashed potatoes to Aunt Sally’s until you mentioned it, so just relax. They’ll enjoy your spread just fine.
4 Things You *Should* Ask for Meaningful Conversation
1. “What are you most thankful for?”
Because is it even Thanksgiving without this question? And especially after a year of lockdowns and curfews, there’s plenty to be thankful for.
2. "How did you meet your partner?"
Everyone loves a good love story, so if your sister, cousin, aunt or uncle brought their beau over for some facetime with the family, go ahead and ask how the two met and watch them recount their meet-cute. It’s a great way to lighten the mood and even create more conversation.
3. "How did you get through the pandemic?"
It’s no secret that many people picked up a range of hobbies in order to cope during the pandemic. From quirky and off beat activities such as birdwatching to more common habits such as streaming copious amounts of Netflix, we all had to figure out how to get through this trying time. Just be tactical about how you ask the question so as to not make anyone feel like they didn’t accomplish much as stated before.
4. "Do you have any interesting places you want to visit?"
Revenge traveling is currently at its height so there’s a high chance your family members have either gone somewhere really cool or are planning a once-in-a-lifetime excursion sometime soon. And if you have an exciting adventure coming up, feel free to share first.